Today’s Boston Globe column by Paul McMorrow of Commonwealth Magazine on the Carlone amendment and the planning crisis in Cambridge sparked a lively string of comments online. Taking a step back from the debate about the politics of the city’s special permitting process, let’s think for a moment about who else is affected by our planning decisions, and what’s at stake. My letter to the Globe editor follows:
To the Editor:
Columnist Paul McMorrow is right that Cambridge urgently needs a new approach to development. However, the “terrifying prospect” is not that that the Cambridge Planning Board would be “gutted” as he wrongly suggests. It is that large-scale development in the Alewife area will continue in the current haphazard fashion in the absence of a citywide plan that threads the needle between promoting economic and housing growth and preserving the area’s livability and floodplain environment. The Alewife area is the caboose on the Kendall Square engine, long neglected as the industrial fringe but suddenly desirable as the city’s last frontier for redevelopment. The area presents great opportunity and even greater urban planning challenges. Cambridge is not an island; our planning decisions will impact residents of neighboring communities as well — those trying to commute through the Alewife bottleneck and those who share its vulnerable floodplain environment. We will all be living with the results of piecemeal planning for years to come. Proceed with caution.